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Where could I go?


boristhespider_1
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Hello!

I thought I'd post this here - I am a rising junior at the University of Minnesota, and I plan to begin the application process to graduate school for a history PhD this year (that is to say, applying for a slot in 2011). Here are my stats:

I am a double major in history and political science.

GPA is going to be around 3.8 when I graduate, maybe a little more, maybe a little less.

I will have spent a semester at Trinity College in Dublin.

I will graduate summa cum laude (I'm currently at work on my honors thesis).

I can count on strong letters of recommendation.

My language skills aren't great by any means, but I have a background in French and to a certain extent Russian.

I have a fairly interesting resume - I've worked at an archive on campus before being laid off due to budget cuts, and I'm now interning with the History News Network and have written a few articles for them.

I will graduate at the end of my junior year (3-year grad plan), and then will take a transition year, primarily to work so I can replenish my depleted funds.

I haven't been working on my SOP yet, largely because I'm more concerned with finishing my undergrad before I start on that.

Haven't taken the GRE yet, and don't know how I'll do. I exceptionally well on the ACT, but that isn't necessarily an indicator of future perfomance.

I honestly don't know what programs I wish to apply for, except for the University of Wisconsin (a good program, and cheap for me as a Minnesota resident - we have reciprocity) and UNC - Chapel Hill. I am interested in the general subfield of war & society and the history of terrorism (I'm writing my thesis on this subject).

Any thoughts? Where could I stand a reasonable chance of getting in?

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2011? Focus on your senior year (or last year or whatever it is), just get good recommendations from your professors, and polish your honors thesis to make it nice and shiny for a writing sample. Have conversations with your professors. Take up a language in an area of your choice and know enough to pass the reading exam.

Then enjoy the rest of the time until application time in fall 2010.

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What are the top books in your subfield? Who wrote them? Where do they teach? Start there...you want to apply to programs that have good scholars in your particular area(s) of interest. This will insure a good fit, which is a huge factor in where you get accepted. So, ask your current professors/advisors for advice on who some of the best people to work with in your areas of interest would be, read some of their books or articles, and then go from there.

As an aside, UVA might be a good choice for you to consider.

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Thanks for your comments. I have a new, rather interesting dilemma. As I said, I am graduating in spring 2010 on a 3-year grad plan, but I have just been offered a full-time job as an editor. The pay is decent (certainly more than a grad student's stipend), I'd be learning some new skills, and without revealing too much, I'd still be involved in the history community. I'd still like to go to grad school at an unspecified point (probably within two or three years), but my undergrad advisor told me today that at the top programs (say ranked within the top 10 or top 15) mark it against you if you took time off after you get your B.A. because it shows that you are a "dilettante." Is this true?

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No. Just as long it's productive with language study, reading articles in the field, etc... take the job! You'll still be involved with the history community. Use nights or weekends to do "productive" things for the adcoms.

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Not true at all, fewer than half of the people in my cohort came straight from undergrad. I maintain that taking time to work in the real world (in a history-related field) after finishing college and my other MA was the best decision I could have possibly made. Grad school isn't going anywhere, but opportunities like the one you've been presented with come along only rarely.

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Thanks for your comments. I have a new, rather interesting dilemma. As I said, I am graduating in spring 2010 on a 3-year grad plan, but I have just been offered a full-time job as an editor. The pay is decent (certainly more than a grad student's stipend), I'd be learning some new skills, and without revealing too much, I'd still be involved in the history community. I'd still like to go to grad school at an unspecified point (probably within two or three years), but my undergrad advisor told me today that at the top programs (say ranked within the top 10 or top 15) mark it against you if you took time off after you get your B.A. because it shows that you are a "dilettante." Is this true?

3 year plan? I regretted graduating too early when I did it in 4. :)

I doubt taking a job after college will make or break your application. It's tough to go top 10 as it is. If you were going to make it in applying right out of undergrad, I don't think a short stint in the real world will sink your application. Plus, I've heard some departments like to see work experience - it proves you can handle an adult schedule, as opposed to varying days of sleeping in and pulling all-nighters typical of many undergrads. But I suppose that could refer to departments outside the T10.

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Thank you very much for your comments.

I have said that war and society and terrorism studies are my research interests, but that doesn't really specify what geographical and historical areas I'm interested in. The geographical areas I'm interested in are France, Russia, and the United States, and obviously my focus is on modern history.

Here's the thing: I'm really not interested in attending a program that's not in the T20, preferably the T10. I hope it doesn't sound shallow or vain, and I know that the overwhelming majority of grad students will tell you to apply to the scholar and not the program, but I'm somewhat skeptical of that. Furthermore, I was not exactly thrilled with my undergraduate institution - although I was more than happy with faculty and the support from my department, I frankly was not impressed with the caliber of the students, and I think standards were deflated to an extent. Anyway, what kind of application would I have to have to be considered for some of these top programs (say, for example, UNC Chapel Hill, Northwestern University, or the University of Chicago)? Would I necessarily have to publish an article, for example, to be considered? Would it be expected that I be a scholarship winner or have won paper prizes? I did come runner-up in two awards at my school...

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just keep in mind that the rankings vary by discipline. There are some schools that have departments that rank overall in the top 20, but have a specific field, like modern US or military history, that ranks in the top 10. It's not worth going to Yale if there is no one there to work with you, but you do want to go to as highly-ranked a school as you can get into that is a good research fit for you. As to your question, you do not need a published article (if you're coming straight from undergrad it is unlikely you'd be ready to have something published--not because you're not a good writer or scholar, but because it is unlikely that you have sufficient grounding in the historiography to really know what the gaps in the existing scholarship are--that's what you'll be getting in grad school). You do need a stellar writing sample, glowing letters of recommendation, a focused statement of purpose, and a decent GPA and GRE scores (emphasis on the first three though). Put together a killer application, apply widely to schools that have well-known scholars who do research in your area of interest, and hope for the best.

Also, try not to worry too much about the 'caliber' of students at your current college...it comes off as condescending (which I know isn't how you meant it). Believe me, whether top-10 or top-50, there will be some people in your cohort who will dazzle you with their brilliance and others who you'll find yourself scratching your head as to how they got accepted anywhere. In general though, you'll find a fairly level playing field no matter where you end up.

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Also, try not to worry too much about the 'caliber' of students at your current college...it comes off as condescending (which I know isn't how you meant it). Believe me, whether top-10 or top-50, there will be some people in your cohort who will dazzle you with their brilliance and others who you'll find yourself scratching your head as to how they got accepted anywhere. In general though, you'll find a fairly level playing field no matter where you end up.

Thanks... and you're right, of course. I actually posted that right after I came out of class, and I was less than impressed with the discussion today. But on reflection, that's probably because the majority of the people in my class were not history majors or even majoring in the liberal arts. I like engineers, I'm friends with some engineers, but they don't necessarily make the greatest discussion partners in a humanities course. :roll: And it would also be wrong to imply that students at my college are not "bright," because there are certainly plenty that are. I actually get more concerned with other people's perceptions of my school, but I think that's just because I read the NY Times comments section too much, where everybody is completely hung up with their alma maters.

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